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The Shadow Theory

A few months ago the debut album 'Behind The Black Veil' by Devon Graves' new band The Shadow Theory was released. Around that time the rumours around a reunion by his former band were comfirmed. Since that other band is the illustrious Psychotic Waltz, it made perfect sense that our interview was largely focused on that matter. The results of that part of that interview are written here. Fortunately, there was enough time left to ask him about his new band. And with for instance drummer Johanne James (Threshold) and bassist Kris Gildenlöw (ex-Pain Of Salvation/DIAL), you can't say it's a band of totally unknown nobodies. Au contraire, mon ami! So with a slight delay you have here the second part of this interview, just at the same time Devon is crossing across Europe with Psychotic Waltz.

By: Evil Dr. Smith | Archive under prog / sympho metal

How are the reactions so far on The Shadow Theory?
So far the reactions have been very positive. A couple “album of the month” reviews, and that sort of things. And no, it hasn't been that always. With Deadsoul Tribe the reactions were more globalized. Some loved it, some hated it. Especially the audience in Greece, where they have a fanatic Psychotic Waltz fanclub. I took also the most criticism from the Greeks. When I came there, people expected to see Psychotic Waltz. But they got Deadsoul Tribe. And they thought it was not that great. They thought it was just a one man show, and that the other guys couldn't play very well, and so on and so on.

Do you agree with that criticism?
Oh, it was absolutely true! I knew that, I knew the Deadsoul Tribe band wasn't as good as Psychotic Waltz. But I didn't think it mattered, haha! I'm still good friends with Adel Moustafa, and he was a hell of a fucking drummer and should have been even a lot better, but that's his fault, because he never practised ever. Never. Never, never ever. And it was amazing how good as he was. And that was exactly why he wasn't the right one for The Shadow Theory. I needed musicians for that band, and Adel wasn't a musician, he never was. Musicians think about playing music, musicians invest in them selves. They think about their instruments, they work on them, collect them, et cetera. But Adel was not like that at all. You'll be surprised how long he left his drums untouched. It's not to put him down or anything, but when I met him before Deadsoul Tribe he told me that he didn't play drums in a year. He didn't even own a drum set. But I was told that he was a great drummer, so I talked him in doing it again. I thought it would change him, but it didn't. He still doesn't practice or buy new drum equipment. He occasionally jams with some friends now. So for The Shadow Theory I wanted to have a more professional band with a live magnetism, just because of the players who'll have a certain vibe about them. So this time I picked out the guys more on their hairstyle. ;-)

So Deadsoul Tribe has been put into the refrigerator and you formed a new band. And one of the band members that was recording in your studio with his band, is now a band member from The Shadow Theory: Kris Gildenlöw from DIAL (and ex-Pain Of Salvation).
Yes, that's the simple story how we met! I was pretty impressed by his bass playing.

But where is Mike Terrana?
Ah, you asked this because all the early information stated that Mike was gonna be the drummer, isn't it? Well actually… that was the plan. He was supposed to be the drummer. Although he wasn't my first choice. My first choice was… Johanne James. I asked him, but he told me he couldn't do it. He was too busy with Threshold and his own band Kyrbgrinder. Deadsoul Tribe and Threshold toured together in 2004 and right after that tour it was the first time I asked him. But he turned me down. The following year I did a tour together with Rage and made good friends with Mike. So I asked him, and I was really happy that he said yes.

If I take a look at Mike's extensive curriculum, I don't think Mike says no to anyone…
Yeah, hehe. The side effect is however that Mike is very highly paid. And I didn't want to pay so much money. Neither did the record label, hehe. They told me it wasn't worth it, and that the album wouldn't sell any better with or without Mike Terrana's name. They prefer to focus on my credibility and the music. But it wasn't just the money, because I when it comes to the reality, I don't think he would ever be available to be on tour with The Shadow Theory. He's always busy, he always has a gig somewhere with someone. Mike is a professional drummer. So I thought it was simply too difficult to coordinate tours and studio time with him as the drummer of The Shadow Theory.

Then you asked Johanne James for the second time?
No, I asked Ed Warby. And he said yes and agreed to do it. We were almost ready to record, until he told me that he couldn't commit to the live situation. Mainly because he was just starting of his own doom metal band [The 11th Hour], in which he is singing (!). So he told me straight out that he couldn't do any touring. And I didn't like the idea to get another drummer who need to practise all the material for the tour-part. I just want one drummer. Then Kris suggested Johanne James. Kris would love to play with Johanne on an album. Yeah, but I already asked him, and he told me “no”. But after I asked the label for more money to pay Mike, which they turned down, they also suggested Johanne. So the label wanted him, Kris wanted him, I wanted him. This has to be some kind of omen. So I e-mailed him, and send him some of the music. I called him at the right time, because this time he said yes and he loved the material. And he also wanted to play live with The Shadow Theory, as long as it wouldn't not conflict with Threshold. So he said “sure, let's do it!” And since I saw him playing in the studio, I was so happy and thanked him so many times. It's just amazing.

I'm glad, because I like Johanne's style more than Mike's.
Well, regarding The Shadow Theory's music I prefer Johanne too. But I'm REALLY good friends with Mike and I just love the guy to death. I want to be in a band with him as well, just because he makes me laugh so much. But Johanne is just better for this type of music, and I know that now. And he's also very entertaining. In Threshold he's like the front man, although he's behind the drums. He is such a strong performer and so charismatic. And Mike is more like a comedian, which I love. But maybe that isn't the best idea for a band like The Shadow Theory.

I saw a drum clinic by Mike once, and it was indeed a very amusing one. But although I'm not a technical listener and don't play drums myself, I got the idea that with Mike it's mainly about hard hitting. A power drummer.
You know, that hard hitting is an illusion. Hard hitting is not the best way to drum. But Mike is a pro, and he thought out a trick. He said there's a way to get the most out of the drums. If you hit too hard, you kill the sound. It's the way I shake my head when I strike, that makes it look like I'm hitting hard. And I must say that I was doubting if Mike would have enough “colour” in his style for my band, but regarding his intelligence and funny sense of humour, I'll bet he know how to play the kick-drum, haha! But I've heard that also play in some kind of jazz-fusion band, so I imagine he could do something really tricky there. So it's just an illusion.

So you want to have the same band members in the studio as on stage, and you (think you) found them. That's nice, but how realistic is it, regarding Johanne versus Threshold, Kris versus DIAL and you versus Psychotic Waltz?
We are all not as busy as Mike, so we have to work around some scheduling. And when someone can't, we simply won't do it. I'm simply hoping. Hoping for an opportunity to make this band the first priority for every band member.

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The album is a grower. First I thought it was “just another Devon Graves album”, but not really mind blowing or enslaving enchanted. It took a lot of spins to get to that point. But it finally did.
That's cool. I approached this album in a way I never done before. I put the vocals in a big collage: a lot of contrast, with different voices and different effects. Layers and layers of this. I never did it this intense before. But about that growing appeal wonders me. Ever since Psychotic Waltz I hear from people they need to listen it quite a few times before they love it. I don't understand, because I like them immediately, haha! Maybe it's my twisted taste in music. Music should grab me instantly. I don't have that feeling or need to “get into the music”. With movies it's just the other way around. Take for instance 'There something About Mary'. It was extremely hyped back then, but I certainly didn't like it that much. It was just okay. I gave it a second chance when I bought it on DVD, but still I thought it wasn't that good. It was only the third time I finally realised how good it actually was. Just like The Shadow Theory it got so many details, that you'll only notice after a couple of time, and then you will realise how extremely funny that movie actually is. Just like 'Leaving Las Vegas', another brilliant movie, which I didn't like it the first couple of times. Every single line is gold. Regarding music I don't really understand that “growing thing”. When people don't like the music at first, they are aren't interested to listen to it again, let alone buy it. So I'm that “growing thing” is working against me my entire career. I don't know what I can do to change it…

Maybe you don't need to change it? I think that's exactly the reason why Devon Graves still is active in the music.
Maybe, maybe… Although we are not that big, we are still here…

People still buy music from Psychotic Waltz. And you won't find these albums in the bargain bin, like so many (and once much more popular) other bands from that era.
That's probably true.

I think your music will survive generations, unlike a lot of others who were once way more popular.
Yeah, maybe I will be really big over hundred years from now? That people will tell about me with pride “I knew him, and he was fabulous!” Hahaha! But it has been my biggest desire to be remembered by what I did. I was also hoping to make a little money at it, but you know… yeah, the emphasis has been put on “little”. Too much emphasis, unfortunately.

You just mentioned a couple of your favourite movies. Is Inception also one of your favourite movies, or at least an inspiring one? Because the synopsis of that movie has a similarity with the concept of your album.
I have never seen that movie. I got the idea of this waking up from one dream into another dream, because that happens to me. Some of the things I'm singing about were things I drew from a phenomenon that actually occurred to me. But in the story it's a ghost story. It's not necessarily about dreaming at all, it might be about death. And to name it a concept album is also a bit too grandiose for what I really did here. I just wanted to write a story. Originally the motive of this album was about classic, old fashioned black and white horror movies. The songs had different topics at first. Each song was a little story. But after a couple of songs, I started figuring out how I can tie these songs together and me one story. So I had to rewrite some of the lyrics, just to get them fit in the lyrical theme of the album. But it's not that big of deal. And now I will already answer your next question, because I know what this is gonna be: yes, my next Shadow Theory album is gonna be a big saga. It will contain a theme I started writing when I was 28 years old, somewhere during the Psychotic Waltz' 'Mosquito' period, and it will finally come to see the light of day now.

It's coming up, because I've embraced the idea of my music as “rock cinema”. I want to create dark, heavy music with a cinematic feeling, like metal for a film score. This element has only been integrated in small parts on this album so far, but it's gonna have a lot more on future albums deliberately. Since the music is so cinematic, it'll be perfect to tell stories like “movies for your mind”.

The final song on the album, 'A Symphony Of Shadows', you made me think you wanted to create your own 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
Hahaha! Well, that was quite literally what I was trying to do. The song is also the peak of the story, where the leading guy is surrounded by countless menacing entities. I tried out all kinds of vocals and vocal effects, but nothing was good enough, unless it was as grand as something like 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Maybe not as grand as Queen eventually, but that song was certainly patterned on that approach. And if people want to know the story, obviously I won't unveil that here and say that you have to figure it out yourself.

Of course. Besides Queen, there is another band that must have been an influence on The Shadow Theory: King Diamond.
I guess you can write a ghost story and deny King Diamond, but trust me: as a King Diamond fan as I am, it took me a lot of time to write songs that deliberately don't sound like King Diamond. But I guess you're right: I think King Diamond had a greater influence on me about the reason why I wanted to write ghost stories than all the movies I've seen combined.

You named one of the songs 'The Sound Of Flies'. On the Deadsoul Tribe albums there were also a couple of songs with 'flies' in the title. What do you have with flies? Do you like to bug people?
Oh yeah, we had a song called 'Spiders & Flies' and we had a song called 'Flies'. Oh, and in Psychotic Waltz I had a song called 'Locust', which was on the album 'Mosquito'. I don't know why, but in this case the fly symbolize something that's dead. 'The Sound Of Flies' is pretty significant of the story of the album. I had that title for a long time, I think that's a good horror movie title.

Just like your fascination for crows, also an animal that's connected with death. Not to mention your name and your previous band; Graves and Deadsoul Tribe.
[smiling] Yeah, all together it makes a nice convenient package, doesn't it? But I don't think that I wrote a lot of songs about death in Deadsoul Tribe. I did a lot in Psychotic Waltz however. It was kinda the ultimate frontier for me. I thought a lot about religion, life and death and the human soul. So yeah, it was a major pre-occupation for me in my early adulthood. And yes, it's also simply an appropriate theme for metal music. The lyrics have to sound like the music. And I do have a morbid taste in music. I don't know where it comes from. Maybe it comes from my abusive upbringing as a child. I think that the music is very empowering to someone who is by nature powerless as a child. Being in touch with a lot of metal fans, I notice there are a lot of people with a history of abuse. I think that a lot of girls who are in to gothic might be victims of abuse. It's not just me guessing, because I spoke with a lot of them. It's like a common thread that runs through them.

Eventually I might be more of a folk bloke than a metalhead, because the intimate, acoustic 'Selebrate' just might be my favourite song of the album.
Thank you. And it's also my favourite one. And Johanne's as well. All right, I might like 'A Symphony Of Shadows' as much, just because the body of work Arne, Demi and I accomplished. It's just overwhelming. But there is something with that 'Selebrate'. It's really satisfying. I just adore that song.

Regarding other songs like 'I Remember', 'Hanging On A String', other songs and now this 'Selebrate', which appeared to come out so extremely beautiful: never thought of recording a complete album of folky singer-songwriter songs?
Well, it was more to break up the monotony. I like to work in contrast. To keeps things interesting. Therefore 'Selebrate' is placed in the centre, as some kind of relief from all those intense metal before and after it. And it also suits the theme of the story, where the leading guy meets a female violin player. But I always wanted to make an album with acoustic songs. Maybe I have missed my calling by not doing it earlier. I did a lot of acoustic concerts the last couple of years. Even more than Deadsoul Tribe concerts. It's just a whole different thing than playing with a band. Just me and my guitar, and I LOVE it! People always ask me after the show if I have an album like this. And I always think: “I don't, but I should…” I notice when I play like this, and I play songs from myself and Jethro Tull, Elton John, Pink Floyd and other classic rock songs like 'Hotel California' and Alice Cooper's 'I Never Cry', all boundaries between me and the audience are away. And it doesn't matter where or for who I play, even if I play in the garage for my wife's friends of for the mothers and fathers of my friends, they all accept this from me. Yet at the same time the metal crowd also likes it. Like I said, it could be something I missed: putting all my energy in metal instead of giving that acoustic side a serious try. Maybe I could have earned a lot of money and had a big success, haha!

I see here a great line-up coming together: a triple bill with Devon acoustic as the opening slot, then The Shadow Theory and finally Psychotic Waltz headlining!
No, it's gonna be even greater. We'll gonna do a festival! We'll have Cage play, we'll have Darkstar, then Deadsoul Tribe, and then I'll do an acoustic set, and then The Shadow Theory and finally Psychotic Waltz. But the only problem is, I'm the singer in most of those bands. And I already got a sore throat speaking with you the last two hours…

So far no live dates are confirmed for The Shadow Theory, but the live dates from Psychotic Waltz have recently be expanded by a show on the Zwarte Cross Festival in Lichtenvoorde, Holland. Hurray!

The Shadow Theory:
Arne Schuppner (guitar, ex-Complex 7)
Kris Gildenlöw (bass, DIAL & ex-Pain Of Salvation)
Johanne James (drums, Threshold)
Demi Scott (keys)

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